Thursday, March 27, 2014

Kathryn Davis and Colin Jones: A Natural Drive

I had the idea for this post at a dinner party last month when I realized how many friends garden and start seeds - I should write about what they grow and where they get their seeds. Then asking friends to of course became so much more. This is the first of several posts presenting what they have written to me. I love people's passion for gardening!

Kathryn Davis: 
After transitioning from her role as Director of the Unum Charitable Foundation, Kathryn served in a number of leadership roles in Maine's nonprofit sector including as President of Laudholm Trust, Chair of the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve Management Authority, and as CEO of United Way of York County.  Since retiring in 2012, Kathryn is living the life of her dreams: growing beauty, feeding the hungry, and chasing the light in southern Maine.

 "Outside in the garden, I am happiest with my hands in the dirt or wrapped around a camera, capturing the beauty and wonder unfolding through the growing season. As a UMaine Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, I am involved with Maine Harvest for Hunger growing in the Kennebunk Community Garden and gleaning at Spiller's farm in Wells. In recent years, I helped create the Partners for a Hunger Free York County, a group that is getting more farm fresh produce to the most food insecure people in our community -- the very young and the very old."

Believing people are as healthy as the food they consume, Kathryn advocates for a locally grown plant based diet as the cure for the chronic diseases plaguing so many in our community. Since her undergraduate studies in nutritional research, Kathryn has been passionate about sharing science based evidence linking food and health as well as ancient wisdom of living a simple balanced life close to the earth.

"In macrobiotic fashion, I  include a wide variety of plants that grow in, on or above the ground. These are always in my garden:
Salad greens including Johnny's Seeds roquette/arugula, beans including french green beans and root vegetables including daikon radish and Nante carrots and American Purple top rutabaga from Allen Sterling and Lothrop,  and leeks seedlings from Winslow Farm (Gray Road, Falmouth). I tried celery last year and this year, I plan to include celeric."

Colin Jones:

Legal counsel at a large bank in MaineColin has a passion for gardening.  He first became interested in gardening through helping his grandmother and later his father tend to their extensive gardens and vegetable patches.  While Colin is always talking to his wife, Lizzy, about getting “more land,” he is content for now with a little under an acre in Falmouth, where he is constantly expanding his gardens, building rock walls, maintaining a pond and small orchard and tending to his bee hives. Colin is interested in companion planting and attracting beneficial insects to the garden.  Colin tries to maintain as much diversity as possible by collecting and growing as many different plant specimens as he can find.

I asked Colin, who starts most things from seed, what your 5 top tried and true things are from seed here in Maine. This is what he said....

"Here are 5 tried and true favorites, all grown from seed that I saved:
1. Borage, attracts beneficial pollinators, flowers and leaves are edible, can be used to garnish salads, tastes like a cucumber (seed originally from Pinetree Seed Co.)
2.  Cranberry beans, mostly used as a dry bean, pretty green and red speckled bean (seed originally from Fedco.)
3. Mustard Greens, adds peppery taste to a salad (seed originally from Seed Savers Exchange)

4. Lettuce "Flashy Trout's Back” romaine lettuce with red speckles.  Self seeds in my garden over winter. (Plant originally from Wealden farm, Freeport)
5. Tomato “Black Cherry” (seed originally from Territorial Seed)

1 new one this year:
-Carrots “Nantes,” trying to grow from saved seed for the first time, carrots are biennials so I have waited two years to try this (seed originally from Seed Savers Exchange)"

More soon on other Maine gardeners and what they love about growing!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Rosemary Verey: Classic Garden Design

I  found some watercolor plans I did of gardens more than 15 years ago.  Back then planning peoples gardens and my own during the winter months was as enjoyable as the digging and doing. My hero at the time was Rosemary Verey. Her Making of a Garden was and still is, my inspiration book. I also loved her book, Good Planting Plans, that was filled with watercolor paintings of garden designs.


 A woman who inherited a garden from her husband's parents in the English countryside, she knew nothing about gardening at the at the start, but her will, determination and spirit gained her a renown reputation and produced a generation of gardens that will be her legacy. A woman who inherited a garden from her husband's parents in the English countryside, she knew nothing at the start, but her will, determination, and spirit gained her a renown reputation and produced a generation of gardens that will be her legacy. Her own house, Barnsley House in Gloucestershire, was her  greatest creation. She was famous for scaling public gardens down for home gardeners and for bringing the ornamental vegetable vegetable garden back into fashion. A woman after my own heart!


I made these plans, inspired by her watercolors. With rapidograph and watercolor washes, the plans gave a sense of the color that the plant material will give off when in bloom. Most of the plant materials were herbs and vegetables.


This garden was a large herb garden done for a family in Redding, CT. They had hired a crew to prepare the site, which included leveling the area, bringing in top soil and composted manure. The beds were defined in Belgian block (the rage of the 90's.) The central feature was a 10 foot birch pole, with a ball of copper wire at the top. Remember when copper was inexpensive! This was a feature I added to many gardens and looked like a huge topiary when covered with vines. I liked to use hops because it grows very tall and will wrap around the pole and ball easily.

This garden plan below never came to materialize. The feature I love of this plan was the "brick rug". After seeing an article about a woman who designed intricate patterns in brick, I was inspired. I dreamed of using all the brick pieces that were in my basement at the time. Old brick has a weathered and worn look that can't be replicated by new brick.

As I sit here waiting for the snow to melt, it is fun to look back at these plans and think about what I might add to this year's plan. As always, a look through a Making of a Garden will inspire.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Terrarium 101

A few years back, I started making terrariums. I saw them everywhere and they reminded how I loved the ones my mom used to make when I was young. I was fascinated with the little tiny world that was self sufficient.  Several years since my first one, I realize how easy and versatile they are. Some of my first experiments have never been watered since the day I put them together! With the tops on, the moisture heats up and condenses during the day, and then replenishes the soil at night. They also can survive on very little light...especially if you use mosses and things found in the woods. I have a few that are never near light.

I collect mosses and lichen in the woods on walks, along with dead branches and rocks that add color and form. Little did I know the organisms they carried! Months later, as the moss started growing in ways it doesn't in the wild, small tiny flying insects hatched, lived, apparently reproduced, and then went back to the soil. They continued this cycle for several years.

Today I stopped into my favorite Portland garden shop, Fiacre. Melissa always has something enticing, and the sun made me feel the urge to touch something green! I was tempted my her specimen succulents, and her cut flowering quince (that she said had been blooming for over 3 weeks!) but ultimately settled on a sweet little maidenhair fern to give a pick me up to my terrariums.

So this is how I make these little beauties....I get a covered, or sometimes open glass container. Often Home Goods or other home store will have these for a inexpensive price. (Open containers will need to be watered!) Then put gravel in the bottom, 1 inch or so. This can be simply from your driveway or woods, or beautiful river rocks purchased at a garden center. Then a short layer of charcoal. This I get from our burn pit, but could be from the fireplace or wood stove. Rinse off before you put on top. Then comes the soil. I use top soil, or compost..something that isn't potting soil, since that usually has perlite and looks artificial. Plant material comes next, and remember less is more. 


Try different things, look for color, texture, and variety. Garden Center (even Home Depot) small plugs, the woods, small shade seedlings from garden perennials are all good choices. Then the fun part...mosses, lichen, gnarly branches, shells, rocks can be added. I add great bug specimens (that die of natural causes) suspended on wire. A great dried dragonfly or bumble bee hovering on wire adds drama but won't last long (because of the moisture.)

Ok, now your turn! Add some green to a dark corner without a window, and never water again!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Insect Habitats

Insect habitats have been popular in Europe for many years because they are such a great way to attract all sorts of pollinators to your yard, while being beautiful in their own right. I have seen them in the Netherlands and France and all take on similar qualities.

From the Black Forest in Germany. Photo by Michael Bohnert.
Old stalks from last season, wood, logs and sticks all with holes drilled into them. Old clay pots, twine balls, hay- anything with a nook or a cranny will do. These can be arranged in wooden box of some sort,  or can be open sided like the one below, made from old pallets.
Copyright: Cheshire Wildlife Trust,
I like the dried corn in the one below, and the variety of natural materials.  Often they have a small roof to protect it from rain.

Insect hotel in Hamburg, Germany.

There are many insects that will be appreciative of more nesting space. Wasps, dragonflies, beetles, lacewings, ladybirds, moths, and the many solitary bees. Bumble bees, leafcutter bees, masked bees and digger bees for a few. This is a great project for people to learn more about these insects that get less attention. It is also a wonderful way to use natural materials that might just go to the compost pile.

Insect Habitat assembled from foraged organic materials and reclaimed
scrap, a habitat-in-waiting for bees and other native creatures. By
Kevin Smith and Lisa Lee Benjamin.
For my garden, I think I will try to make a visually interesting structure with textures and colors all arranged in patterns. Stay posted for the outcome!
For more about these great habitats and how to make and care for them, here are some sources: